Don't Laugh at the New Facebook Phone


We can finally bury the relentless Facebook Phone chatter.

There really is a Facebook-centric phone coming, but thankfully it's not as ridiculous as it may sound.

Facebook announced today that HTC and AT&T would be teaming up to introduce the first Facebook-optimized phone next week. HTC First will be available through AT&T Wireless on April 12 at a compelling price point of $99 with a two-year contract.

If this was the end, it would be a disaster for Facebook. Who wants a Facebook phone, especially one tethered to a two-year contract? Can anyone safely say that they will even care about social networking come 2015?

However, Facebook is actually doing this in a smart way. You don't need to buy the HTC First to get the shiny new interface which powers up with visual updates and other nifty navigational features.

Facebook Home is a new home screen that will be available on several of the leading smartphones running Google's Android next Friday through the Google Play app store. HTC First naturally will have it pre-installed and the device itself is optimized for the interface, but anyone that doesn't want to make that kind of investment can just stick with a Samsung Galaxy S III, HTC One, or any of the other eligible devices.

If someone tires of Facebook Home and wants to revert back to a home screen that revolves around apps instead of people, it's an easy process to undo.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg began the presentation alluding to third-party data showing that more than 20% of someone's time on a smartphone is spent engaging on Facebook -- and that pops up to better than 25% when you tack on Facebook's Instagram. Social apps make up the largest category of smartphone engagement.

Facebook is taking a logical and evolutionary step with Facebook Home, and that will hold true even if next week's rollout of HTC First flops. Facebook knows what it's doing.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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